Coffee Me Up
In addition to having possibly the smoothest nitro cold brew in town, this shop serves up some of the biggest, and best, breakfast sandwiches. They’re a struggle to get your mouth around, stacked high with egg, meat, cheese, greens, avocado and whatever else is on special that day. What’s more, most of them come with liptao, an incredible spread of mashed potato, roasted red peppers, feta cheese, chives and garlic. If you’re feeling something lighter, the croissants and fruit-filled pastries are flaky and delicious.
BTW: There’s seating out back on a small deck that’s hidden from sight. Go through the back door if it’s crowded inside.
221 Cumberland Ave., Portland, Maine 04101
Portland has no shortage of quality brunch spots, but Local 188, with its Spanish-inspired dishes, is something unique. Located in the West End, the high-ceilinged lounge space is casual yet bold, with deep-red decor and funky art. The menu works well for picky eaters and adventure-seekers alike, boasting both your traditional eggs and home fries as well as a breakfast paella with bacon, eggs and mussels. If you find yourself somewhere in the middle, go for the mushroom-and-herb scramble, made with tangy goat cheese.
BTW: People don’t realize there’s a parking lot behind the restaurant. Head back there instead of struggling to find a spot on the street.
685 Congress St., Portland, Maine 04102
Sisters Gourmet Deli
Mainers love a good sandwich (the Italian was invented in Portland), and Sisters Gourmet Deli comes through with some of the best. There are over a dozen on the menu, each thin but packed tightly with fresh ingredients between the shop’s light-yet-doughy circular bread. A fan favorite is the Macintuscan — imagine a turkey club, but add apple slices and honey mustard. What the shop, located in Monument Square, lacks in size it makes up for with personality and color: It’s hard to miss its neon “Peace, Love, Sandwiches” sign from the window.
BTW: If sandwiches aren’t your thing, anything on the menu can be turned into a salad.
15 Monument Sq., Portland, Maine 04101
Bao Bao Dumpling House
Whether you’re looking for a light lunch or you’re full-on hangry, Bao Bao will satisfy. The snug West End spot is owned by a mother-daughter duo with an impressive résumé both in Maine and abroad. (Daughter Cara Stadler studied under Guy Savoy and Gordon Ramsay.) The dumplings, which are pan-fried or boiled, come six to a plate, so order a few different ones to share as a group. The menu also has hot and cold sections; the best from each are the sheng jian bao and the somen noodles, respectively.
BTW: The bulgogi beef dumplings come with their own creamy dipping sauce that will have you ordering a second round.
133 Spring St., Portland, Maine 04101
The Highroller Lobster Co.
You can’t visit Portland and not eat lobster. While some people prefer to eat theirs by the water, Highroller is tucked away, making its back patio feel as if you’ve stumbled upon a secret. This seafood diner, which originated as a food cart, offers more than the typical lobster roll — try the lobster taco with the deep-fried cheese shell, or the lobster grilled cheese sandwich. If you’re looking for something truly unique, get the lobby pop and eat the Maine favorite on a stick.
BTW: To cool down, you can’t go wrong with the frosé. It’s a local hit.
104 Exchange St., Portland, Maine 04101
While the 1880s-era mansion that houses Roma Cafe has been renovated many times over the years, walking inside still feels like walking into someone’s home. To the left of the foyer is a compact bar, and to the right is a cozy dining room. The candlelit atmosphere is warm and romantic, and the pasta is made fresh. You can’t go wrong ordering the rigatoni Bolognese.
BTW: If you’re looking to grab drinks before dinner or while you wait for a table, head downstairs to Bramhall. The basement bar has a wide selection of local beer and strong cocktails.
767 Congress St., Portland, Maine 04102
Arcadia National Bar
With a name inspired by Maine’s Acadia National Park, this arcade bar is a gamer’s paradise. Arcadia has pinball machines, old-school arcade games, Skee-Ball, board games, modern and vintage video-game consoles, and couches for non-gamers (or those in need of a rest from all of the above). The bar has a good selection of craft beer and cocktails, too — if you’re a fan of “The Office,” try the Bears, Beets, Battlestar Galactica. The comfort food is made to be paired with drinking, so get a grilled cheese or all-night breakfast sandwich and put your game face on.
BTW: If you want to bring kids, Arcadia is open to all ages from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.
24 Preble St., Portland, Maine 04101
The Portland Zoo
This little place may not have any animals, but it is a great local watering hole. When the Zoo opened in Portland’s East Bayside neighborhood in fall 2018, it quickly became a favorite of those who prefer a more laid-back approach to a night out. The inside is small and intimate, while the larger backyard space, accented by cafe lights, has plenty of seating. Aside from the relaxed atmosphere, it’s the curated craft-beer selection that gives the Zoo its edge. With both local standouts and choice options from farther away, it’ll make you want to stay awhile.
BTW: Chat up your neighbors, especially if you’re sitting inside. The bar only seats eight, and unlike some zoo animals, Portlanders don’t bite.
41 Fox St., Portland, Maine 04101